BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan presented on his Facebook page on Nov. 18, 2020 his six-month roadmap of actions he plans to take after the devastating defeat Armenia suffered against Azerbaijan, Turkey and imported mercenary terrorists.
These are the steps Pashinyan intends to take, assuming he stays in power. He has rejected persistent popular demands for his resignation. These are his 15-point plans:
Pashinyan began by stating that “it is time to talk about the ways, methods and programs to overcome the current situation.” He admitted that he is “the main responsible for the current situation” and “responsible for overcoming the situation and establishing stability and security in the country.”
The Prime Minister stated that that his first priority is the “resumption of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, emphasizing the status of Artsakh and the priority of the return of the people of Artsakh to their places of residence.” By negotiating the ending of the Artsakh War with Russia, Pashinyan had left out the two other members of the Minsk Group of negotiators, France and the United States.
In his second point, Pashinyan repeated the importance of the return of the people of Artsakh to their homes. He added that their damaged houses, apartments and infrastructure should be restored. Thousands of refugees from Artsakh have already returned to their homes not occupied by Azerbaijan. The Armenian Government has paid a negligible amount of compensation to the returnees.
The third point: the “provision of social guarantees for the families of killed servicemen and citizens.”
The fourth point: “restoration of residential and public structures and infrastructure damaged during the war in the territory of the Republic of Armenia.”
The fifth point: “providing social guarantees, prosthetics and professional training for servicemen with disabilities.”
The sixth point: “soonest return of captured soldiers and civilians. Provision of social guarantees for their families. Quick clarification of the fate of the missing and provision of social guarantees for their families.” This should have been priority number one.
The seventh point: “formation of a system of psychological rehabilitation of the individuals who took part in the war and society in general.”
The eighth point: “approval of the Armed Forces Reform Program and launch of reforms.” I hope this includes the modernization of the military by providing it with the latest drones and missiles and establishing an “air shield” or “Iron Dome” over Armenia and Artsakh to protect them from Israeli and Turkish advanced drones acquired by Azerbaijan.
The ninth point: “overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and eliminating its consequences.”
The tenth point: “restoration of the environment for economic activity.”
The eleventh point: “revitalization of programs for solving demographic problems.” This probably refers to a plan to provide incentives for the growth of the population, something Armenia desperately needs, particularly after the sacrifice of thousands of its young men.
The twelfth point: “amendments to the Electoral Code and adoption of a new law on [political] parties.”
The thirteenth point: “introduction of the institute of professional judges as the first step in establishing an anti-corruption court. Implementation of the law on confiscation of illegal property.” This step has already been initiated.
The fourteenth point: “holding regular thematic consultations with representatives of the Armenian political community and civil society.” This step is desperately needed to unify the nation.
The fifteenth point: “conducting regular thematic consultations with Armenian organizations and individuals of the Diaspora. Involvement of Diaspora individuals and structures in the above-mentioned processes.” Regrettably, the Diaspora has been ignored for far too long except when it comes to fundraising. Besides consulting with the Diaspora, there is a need to establish an institutional structure to deal with the Diaspora in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.
In addition, Pashinyan mentioned that he will make changes in the structure of his government. Indeed, several Ministers have either quit or have been removed since this announcement. It is not likely that their removal is going to satisfy those have been calling for Pashinyan’s resignation.
In conclusion, Pashinyan stated that in six months, until June 2021, he will report to the nation about the implementation of these 15 points and “make a decision on what to do next, taking into account public opinion and reaction.” This could mean that Pashinyan is trying to buy himself time to stay in power and calm the public’s grief and frustration. It remains to be seen if he lasts that long and what the results of his plans will be.
I would like to mention now several important points that Pashinyan left out of his roadmap.
The first immediate priority should be the clarification of the vague provisions of the “Statement” that Pashinyan signed with Aliyev and Putin. This should be an opportunity to minimize the losses and eliminate some of the harshest concessions, such as permitting a road through Armenia’s South to connect Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan.
The second priority should be to take all necessary steps to protect the independent status of Artsakh. Otherwise, we risk losing the remainder of Artsakh.
The third priority is the establishment of an investigative committee to review everything that went wrong in the war and to identify those responsible for the grave errors. There have been a lot of accusations of treason or desertion by Armenia’s political and military leaders. However, not a single individual has been charged with any wrongdoing. It is important than this committee or tribunal be composed of non-partisan and highly respected individuals to avoid any cover-up by the government. Due to national security secrets, it may not possible to invite impartial foreign investigators.
The fourth missing point is the elimination of the regrettable division of Armenians into “blacks” and “whites,” meaning pro-regime and opposition factions. The prevailing atmosphere of hatred and acrimony is tearing the Armenian society apart. All sides should condemn the use of hostile and vulgar language to describe fellow Armenians who disagree with them.
Finally, a provisional government of technocrats should be established to oversee some of the outlined points and others to return Armenian society to normalcy. Plans should also be made to disband the Parliament and schedule new parliamentary elections in six to 12 months.
Before the election, however, a new constitution should be prepared and a referendum held to adopt its amended provisions which may include electing the President rather than appointing him by Parliament.
All of these steps should be undertaken in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance, regardless of our individual differences, respecting the rule of law and excluding the commitment of violence.